The arsenal was inaugurated in 1871, soon after the Meiji restoration. One of its main early productions was the Murata rifle, the first locally-produced Japanese rifle. As of 1893, it was producing about 200 rifles and 200,000 cartridges daily. The arsenal was especially active between the two World Wars, as the Arisaka was produced there.
Discipline and organization at the arsenal are thought to have been extremely strict, leading to the development of labor disputes in which the Koishikawa arsenal took a leading role in Japan.
The arsenal suffered considerable destruction during the Great Kantō Earthquake on 1 September 1923. Complete reconstruction was deemed too expensive, so that the arsenal was transferred to Kokura in Kyūshū (小倉工廠) in October 1935, after 66 years of operation.
^"The Koishikawa Arsenal ( Ho-hei Kosho) occupies the site of the former mansion of the Prince of Mito. Here are manufactured the celebrated Murata rifles. An order from the military authorities is necessary to gain admittance." in A handbook for travellers in Japan Basil Hall Chamberlain, W. B. Mason p.122
^"The arsenal of Koishikawa is Woolwich on a smaller scale, with 200 rifles and 200000 cartridges for its day's work." in The Real JapanHenry Norman 1893
^"An order has recently been placed at the Koishikawa Arsenal by Russia for the manufacture of ten aeroplane motors. The authorities have accepted it, it is understood, although recently an order for 300 planes from Petrograd was declined by them howing to the limited capabilities of the arsenal." in Antiaircraft Journal Vol45, 1916